The right to freedom of conscience
Article 44.1 of the Irish Constitution protects the right to freedom of conscience. The Irish State has failed to recognise the right of those who, on the basis of conscience, seek healthcare without a religious purpose because that religious purpose undermines the dignity of the human person and is based on the tenets of a particular religion.
The European Court has said that secularism is a belief protected by Article 9 of the European Convention. The courts in Ireland have already recognised the right to freedom of conscience applies to those with philosophical convictions.
The State has a duty to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen, which includes the right to freedom of conscience. Handing over public healthcare to private religious bodies that deny access to reproductive rights because of Canon law is a clear disregard for the rights of secularists and the outcome of the abortion referendum.
Atheist Ireland continues to campaign for a secular Irish Constitution, laws, government, education system, and healthcare system. We are a voluntary body and we depend on the support of our members. Please join Atheist Ireland as a member and help us to bring about an ethical secular State.
– Secular Sunday Editorial Team
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To broaden and strengthen our campaigns, Atheist Ireland have undertaken to make more use of the Irish language.
We are looking to assemble a group of volunteers, to help with:
- Discussing our policies and campaigns on radio or tv
- Helping to write documents in Irish
- Meeting with politicians to lobby them
We are in the process of translating policy documents at the moment, and we need some help with translating and proofreading. If you would like to assist with this effort, please email us at email@example.com.
Atheist Ireland News
Protecting the freedom of conscience of secularists in the National Maternity Hospital
Our politicians are now wrestling with the issues around the National Maternity Hospital and the Sisters of Charity. Those issues are not just about access to reproductive healthcare, but also about the right to freedom of conscience. Those who seek a National Maternity Hospital free from religious influence do so on the basis of their constitutionally protected right to freedom of conscience.
Article 44.1 of the Irish Constitution protects the right to freedom of conscience. The Irish State has failed to recognise the right of those who, on the basis of conscience, seek healthcare without a religious purpose because that religious purpose undermines the dignity of the human person and is based on the tenets of a particular religion. The reason that politicians don’t see this as an issue of conscience is because of the influence of the Catholic Church in relation to the definition of freedom of conscience, religion and belief.
The European Court has said that secularism is a belief protected by Article 9 of the Convention, and that an aim to uphold secular and democratic values can be linked to the legitimate aim of the protection of the rights and freedoms of others within the meaning of Article 9 of the European Convention (Hamidovic v. Bosnia and Herzegovina 5.3.2018 European Court). Article 9 of the European Convention relates to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
In 2010 the Irish State argued at the European Court in the A, B and C case that the restriction on abortion pursued the legitimate aim of the protection of morals, of which the protection in Ireland of the right to life of the unborn was one aspect. It is clear since the abortion referendum that a majority in Ireland disagreed with restricting abortion on the basis of a particular moral view.
The courts in Ireland have already recognised the right to freedom of conscience applies to those with philosophical convictions. Given the finding of the European court, it seems likely that the Irish courts would recognise that those who seek a secular healthcare system on the basis of their conscience are protected by Article 44.1 of the constitution.
In the High Court in 2011, Justice Hogan stated that:
“27. Along with the guarantee of free speech in Article 40.6.i, Article 44.2.1 guarantees freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion. Taken together, these constitutional provisions ensure that, subject to limited exceptions, all citizens have complete freedom of philosophical and religious thought, along with the freedom to speak their mind and to say what they please in all such matters….”
“35. There is thus no doubt at all but that parents have the constitutional right to raise their children by reference to their own religious and philosophical views.” (AB v Children’s Hospital Temple Street & CD & EF – January 2011)
Denying women their reproductive rights is discrimination, and it undermines the rights of women. Many people object on the ground of conscience to the State involving a religious body in the National Maternity Hospital project, and especially when that body actively campaigns internationally to deny reproductive rights to women.
The supporters of secularism can be those with no religious affiliation, atheists, or humanists, but also those with a religious belief, as there are many religious secularists.
Under the Constitution everyone has a right to equality before the law and the State cannot discriminate in access to termination of pregnancy on moral grounds. The State also has a duty to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen, which includes the right to freedom of conscience. Handing over public healthcare to private religious bodies that deny access to reproductive rights because of Canon law is a clear disregard for the rights of secularists and the outcome of the abortion referendum. Read online…
Calling concerned teachers
If you are a teacher and concerned about unwanted religious influence contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
List of Atheist Ireland Submissions
Buy this book “Is My Family Odd About Gods?”
**Schools Special Offer**
Atheist Ireland are offering the book ‘Is my family odd about gods‘ free (excluding postage and packaging). This means that you can get this book for the total price of 10 euro. This offer is aimed at families with school going children, who would like to read this book during their online school term. This offer is limited to one book per family unit and for postage within Ireland only. Read more…
Have you noticed that your school and your teachers may tell you one thing about religion, while some of your friends and family may have different ideas about god?
If you think that this is a little odd, then this book is for you. Buy this book here.
Lessons about Atheism
Atheist Ireland has published a set of free lesson plans about atheism for children aged 8 and up. We welcome feedback, which we will use to develop the lessons. You can download the lesson plans here
Be Good without Gods
Atheist Ireland ‘Good Without Gods’ Kiva team members have made loans of $32,950 to 1146 entrepreneurs in the developing world. You can join the team here. Before you chose a loan, make sure you do not support religious groups. You can check the loan partner’s social and secular rating here.
Atheist Ireland’s ‘notme.ie‘ is a place where people can publicly renounce the religion of their childhood. Currently there are 1853 symbolic defections. Many share their reasons for making a public symbolic defection which you can read here.
Petition on Schools Equality PACT
Atheist Ireland currently runs one petition – The Schools Equality PACT. This seeks to reform religious discrimination in state-funded schools. Currently this stands at 4,074 Help us reach it’s target of 5000. Please sign and share this petition if you haven’t already done so. Thank you.
Tell us what you think
Have you any feedback that you would like to give us on the Secular Sunday newsletter. What are we getting right? What could we improve on? Is there something you would like to see included? Drop us an email at email@example.com.
Please consider joining or re-joining Atheist Ireland
Atheist Ireland is an entirely volunteer run organisation. We receive no grants or government funding to continue our campaign work. We rely entirely on membership fess and donations.
Annual membership is nominal; €25 waged, €10 unwaged/student and €40 for family membership. Please consider becoming a member. Membership means:
- You can help to build an ethical and secular Ireland.
- You have a say in determining policy and electing officers.
- You can attend members meetings and our AGM.
- You will have access to our members only Facebook group
- Your membership fee will go towards supporting our many campaigns.
You can join Atheist Ireland here.
Thank you for your continued support
Atheist Ireland Committee
Opinion and Media
Material on atheism, secularism, human rights,politics,science etc. collected from media and the blogosphere from Ireland and beyond; used without permission, compensation, liability, guarantee or implied endorsement. We aim to include a variety of diverse opinions and viewpoints.
Blogs & Opinions
Ending church control of State-funded hospitals may need vote
By Gerry NcNamara
It may seem scarcely credible that well into the 21st century the State proposes to hand effective ownership and control of a billion-euro publicly-funded utility to a private denominational charity. However, placed in the context of the continued dominant position of the Catholic Church in education and healthcare it seems less remarkable. Read more…
Owning the National Maternity Hospital
By Dr Peter Boylan
Sir, – I read with attention the letter signed by 42 of the current consultant staff at the National Maternity Hospital (Letters, June 28th). One sentence that jumped out was that “all care within Irish law is currently being provided at Holles Street and will be provided at the new hospital”. Read more…
Compulsory purchase is for the little people, not for St Vincents
By Fintan O’Toole
In the conflict over the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH), the Government has effectively ruled out the compulsory acquisition of the land on which it is to be built. The State has not always been so timid. Twenty years ago, on November 15th, 2001, the minister for the marine and natural resources, Fianna Fáil’s Frank Fahey, issued Statutory Instrument 517. It gave him the power to make compulsory acquisition orders (CAOs) for lands in the Erris peninsula in Co Mayo. Read more…
Focus on redress: ‘Aftershocks’ of residential abuse reverberate
By Noel Baker
In total, the Residential Institutions Redress Board has paid out €970.03m to the thousands abused in Ireland’s residential institutions. And yet, many think of the compensation as “dirt money” because they never felt their testimonies to the commission were believed. This feeling is not the only one that haunts them from their nightmare experiences in the institutions. Read online…
Poland’s Catholic church received as many abuse reports since 2018 as in previous three decades
By Daniel Tilles
Poland’s Catholic church today published data on reports of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy that it received between July 2018 and the end of 2020. In that period, almost as many complaints were filed as over the previous 28 years combined. Read more…
Uncage Mubarak Bala
By Femi Macaulay
When will Mubarak Bala be freed from unlawful detention? He is accused of blasphemy and has been detained for more than a year, since April 2020, without any formal charge. Bala, president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who will be 37 in July, was arrested at his residence in Kaduna State and taken to Kano State after allegedly posting comments critical of Islam and religion on Facebook. Read more…
The ugly Batley and Spen campaign showed the risks of indulging religious identity politics
By Chris Sloggett
The recent events at Batley Grammar School are well-documented, but still shocking to recount. A loud group of intolerant Muslims gathered at the gates of a school demanding a teacher’s dismissal because they objected to a resource he used in class. The school suspended the teacher and issued a grovelling apology. The teacher faced threats, and soon afterwards two of his colleagues were also suspended. Read more…
At UN, Humanists International calls for freedom of thought in schools
By Humanists International
Humanists International has delivered a statement at the 47th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, on the importance of encouraging intellectual freedom and critical thinking in schools as a fundamental aspect of a child’s right to education. Read more..
Study: Atheists Are (Still) Widely Disliked; Christians Love Themselves
By Hemant Mehta
It’s no surprise that atheists are disliked in America. Study after study has found that we have a bad reputation. I would say that’s probably due to pastors badmouthing us and a general belief in the country that morality and theism are intertwined. But the end result is people don’t like us. Read more…
Catholic Church in Poland Discloses Hundreds of Sexual Abuse Accusations
By Andrew Higgins
WARSAW — Poland’s Catholic Church, assailed by accusations that it for years ignored the sexual abuse of minors by clergy members, on Monday acknowledged that from July 2018 through the end of last year, it had received complaints of abuse against 368 boys and girls. Read more…
Atheist, humanist sues Mississippi license plate
An American atheist, the Mississippi Humanist Association, and three non-religious state residents filed a proceeding against the state on Tuesday over the “In God We Trust” license plate. Read more…
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